Part-time students have access to the whole range of benefits available, as long as they satisfy the individual conditions of entitlement, and are less restricted because of their student status.
Students who are unable to work due to sickness or disability, unemployed, on a low income or have caring responsibilities may be entitled to claim Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance depending on their circumstances.
Job Seekers Allowance is both a means tested and a non-means tested benefit. You satisfy the contribution-based (non-means tested) part, which can be paid for up to six months if you have paid sufficient national insurance contributions usually in the previous two tax years before the year of your benefit claim. You can only qualify for the means-tested part if the income of yourself and /or your partner is below what the law says you need to live on and you satisfy the individual conditions of entitlement.
There is no restriction on the number of hours a student is allowed to study whilst claiming this benefit as long as the course is described as, and you are registered as, part-time. You need to meet the job seeking conditions, i.e. you are available for work, actively seeking work, and you have a valid jobseekers agreement. There are special rules which may help you to claim JSA if you are a part-time student. In certain circumstances, the fact that you are on a course will be ignored when deciding whether you are available for work, if you study part-time and you are willing and able to rearrange the hours of your course to take up a job, and your hours of availability have been agreed with the Jobcentre.
Sometimes the Jobcentre will ask you to provide a learning agreement from your college stating that you are studying for less than 16 hours per week. However, this requirement only applies to Further Education where claimants are required to study less than 16 guided learning hours to receive benefit. If Jobcentre Plus insists on you submitting a learning agreement, then make an appointment to see the Welfare/Benefits Adviser who can give you a letter quoting the appropriate regulations and confirming that your registration on a Higher Education course is part-time.
In addition you must not unreasonably restrict your chances of employment, for example, by stating an unacceptably high wage or by only looking for a certain type of job. The regulations state that, when deciding availability for work in any particular week, the decision maker must ignore the pattern of study as long as the student is willing and able to reorganise his/her hours of study so as to be able to start work within a reasonable timescale.
Increased conditions are now in place. The main changes include the introduction of work for your benefit schemes and a requirement for more claimants and their partners to undertake work related activity. Progression to Work groups are to be introduced for claimants not able to return to work immediately and now lone parents with a child aged 5 or over will be required to take up work-related activity as a condition of receiving benefit. However, if the youngest child is 13 or under you only need to be available for work during your child’s normal school hours. It will therefore become more difficult for part-time students to stay on courses and claim Job Seekers Allowance.
All Social Security claims can be made by telephone. Claimants remain entitled to make paper claims but if, for some reason, it is difficult for them to make a claim by phone, e.g. communication problems or disability, they can access claim forms on the internet.
To make a claim you need to call the local Contact Centre on 0800 0556688. This is an initial contact to register your claim and establish where a telephone interview will be conducted and claim form completed. This will usually be followed up by an arranged appointment with a claimant adviser at the local Jobcentre for a work-focused interview. The aims of the interview are to help you back to work as soon as possible, to make sure that you are eligible to claim JSA, and to draw up a Jobseekers agreement. At the interview, remember that although you are a student you are expected to be available and actively looking for work and should not cast doubt on your willingness to work. If you are entitled to benefit, it should be backdated to the date of the initial call.
If you are not required to be available for work, you are entitled to claim Income Support for yourself and your family. Generally, those entitled to Income Support are carers, some disabled students and single parents with a child under 5. For further details see the separate leaflet on Income Support to check your entitlement. The initial claiming procedure is the same as that for Job Seekers Allowance (see above).
If you have limited capability for work due to sickness or disability, and can get a sick note from your doctor signing you off as unfit for full time work (over 16 hours), you should claim Employment and Support Allowance. It is both a means-tested and a non-means tested benefit. You satisfy the non-means tested part if you have paid enough national insurance contributions. The means tested part is paid as long as your income is below what the law says you need to live on. It is possible to receive one or both types of ESA.
The initial claiming procedure is the same as that described for Job Seekers Allowance. In addition, you need to send in medical certificates from your GP declaring that you are unfit for full-time work until you are assessed under the work capability assessment. Most claimants will also have to attend work-focused interviews at the Job Centre and may be required to undertake work-related activity. For more details, see the disability benefits leaflet.
Housing Benefit and other Housing Costs
Students with Housing costs can claim help for Rent and Council Tax from the Local Authority via the Housing and Council Tax Benefit scheme. If you receive Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance for yourself and your family you should receive enough benefit to have these costs paid in full unless there is another adult living with you (apart from your partner), or your rent is higher than the Local Housing Allowance limits. You should be able to register your claim for this at the same time as you make your claim via Jobcentre Plus, but it may be quicker to claim directly from the Local Authority by completing one of their claim forms and submitting it to a local One Stop Shop where you will usually be guaranteed a decision on your claim within a certain timescale. In Liverpool, this time limit is usually 12-14 days as long as you provide all of the information required to assess your claim. For further details, see the separate leaflet on Housing Benefit.
Students with Mortgage costs can claim these via Jobcentre Plus at the time of their Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance/Employment and Support Allowance claim. Mortgage interest can only be paid at a national average rate set at a level equal to the Bank of England monthly average mortgage rate on mortgages up to £200,000 with limited help for other specific costs. You can only start receiving this help after 13 weeks of claiming. Claimants who receive Job Seekers Allowance usually have a limit of 104 weeks when Housing costs can be paid.
From September 2012 the maintenance grant of £265 which is disregarded for benefit purposes will continue for part-time students. Payment does not depend on how intensive your course is. In addition, students can claim a means-tested fees grant which is available at three different levels depending on how intensive the course is: £820 (up to 59% of a full-time course), £985 (up to 74% of a full-time course), and £1,230 (for 75% or more of a full-time course). New students starting on a part-time course in 2012 can claim a tuition fee loan to pay their tuition fees up to 50% of the full time fee charged by the University. There is no Maintenance Grant or Loan available to new part-time students. For further details, call Student Funds on 0151 291 3435.
Disabled Students have access to a wide range of disability benefits all of which have individual conditions of entitlement. The most common benefits claimed by students and their carer are Disability Living Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance, and Carers Allowance. These are covered in more detail in the Disabled Students leaflet.
In addition to the general funding available to part-time students, the Disabled Students Allowance can be claimed for course equipment costs and non-medical helper services. If you need more information about this see Bridging the Gap D.F.E. leaflet available on . The grant is disregarded for benefit purposes.
For details call Student Funds on 0151 291 3435.
IF YOU WANT ANY FURTHER INFORMATION OR ADVICE on any aspect of Social Security Benefits whilst studying contact Student Development and Well-Being to make an appointment with the Student Welfare/Benefits Adviser. Tel. 0151 291 3427 or email SDW@hope.ac.uk.